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The calm before the storm -- prepping federal records for disaster

Tyler Morris

We’re almost through hurricane season, and so far we’ve been lucky: none of the hurricanes or tropical storms have caused significant damage. Even so, we’re not out of the woods yet. Researchers at Colorado State University predicted the 2014 hurricane season would see three storms making landfall, and one will be a Category 3 or higher. Remembering that it only takes one major storm to wipe everything out is the first key to preparedness -- but what do you do to prepare for this level of disaster or its aftermath?new balance 993

When you think of prepping for a storm, you probably think of personal survival supplies -- like having enough batteries, non-perishable food and water; but preparing your agency is a different story. To keep your agency or department up and running after a storm passes through, you need to back up your records and data -- but this is only part of the plan.

Keeping records and data safe and secure requires detailed planning, and agencies are required to have detailed Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP) in place at all times. This will prepare you and your agency for how to deal when the disaster is at hand -- who to communicate with, what the protocol is for getting back to work and other logistical efforts around making information available to workers. Inevitably at some point, the worst is bound to happen for some offices -- flood waters will rise, strong winds will persist and before you know it everything has been wiped out. In cases like these, knowing your options for records recovery ahead of time will help your agency get back to standard operations with limited down-time.

Planning ahead

Hurricanes and other major storms can jeopardize your records and information, interrupt services from your contractors, and most of all, hinder your ability to provide services to citizens. While there’s nothing you can do to physically move your office out of the path of the storm, you can make sure you’re ready by:nike shox com

  • Putting a communications plan in place for employees;
  • Prioritizing which records and software applications -- including email -- to protect;
  • Setting up an archival system to ensure all transactions are recoverable;
  • Building in redundancies;
  • Designating a remote facility -- far enough away that it won’t be affected by the same disaster -- where you can access federal records;
  • Ensuring your contractors have a disaster preparation and recovery plan in place as well; and
  • Conducting a drill or test of your recovery plan, off hours.

Recovery efforts

Despite your best efforts in preparing, disaster can happen in any situation -- no matter how secure your office, warehouse or storage facility may be. Fortunately, when this happens, data experts can resurrect your records to recover tape, paper, video or other types of electronic or magnetic media. These disaster recovery experts will take one of the following approaches to get your information back:

  • Onsite restoration: For simple needs, data is resuscitated within the office, from start to finish. This approach works well for paper, microfiche, X-ray, film, video and electronic or magnetic media. As part of the process, technicians may freeze-dry, scan or film paper records and books; clean X-rays; or copy data stored on magnetic media.
  • Offsite restoration: When damage is more extensive, the recovery team will recommend moving damaged records offsite to work in-depth on each artifact with more specialized tools, and in a controlled environment.

Once records have been restored, facilities need to be as spotless and free of contaminants as possible to ensure the backups run smoothly, with no errors or glitches. If the facility has flood, wind or even fire damage, the entire area must be cleaned and restored before you can resume working.

Looking forward

By preparing for the worst, and knowing your options ahead of time, you will reduce the risk of losing vital data and information assets while simultaneously supporting compliance requirements for safeguarding sensitive data. In fact, by preparing now, your agency will address the needs of the National Security Presidential Directive-51/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-20 and the National Continuity Implementation Plan, both requiring vital federal agency records to be safeguarded, available and accessible to support continuity operations.

Being prepared is vital to your agency’s success and longevity. When you struggle to restore data from backup files, you may significantly hinder your agency’s ability to maintain proper continuity of operations procedures. This information should be useful and will help guide you through your own preparation plans. Remember -- it will only take a few days to plan, but planning will save you millions of dollars and hundreds of manpower hours down the road if disaster ever hits.

Tyler Morris is director, Product Management at Iron Mountain Government Services. 


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